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Tuesday Twaddle


From beyond the grave, Julia Child shows that print still matters

The late chef’s magnum opus, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, sold 22,000 copies in one week following release of the movie “Julie & Julia.” That is “more copies than were sold in any full year since the book’s appearance” nearly 48 years ago, according to the New York Times, citing the book’s publisher, Knopf.

The book also hit No. 1 at both Amazon and B& earlier this month, and is racing up the charts at Publishers Weekly’s hardcover nonfiction best sellers.

i.e.  People still read books!

Yes, I know how Twitter can drive events. The Tehran uprisings are a classic example. But predictions of the demise of print (as well as the power of an old-fashioned Hollywood movie) have been greatly exaggerated!

Think about it. Here we have a 752-page book that’s racing off the shelves, and the publicity for it has been driven exclusively by the film, as well as (I would argue) the stellar reviews it got, mostly in print newspapers and magazines. Could social media have resurrected “Mastering”? Maybe, but the book’s amazing comeback proves that the tried-and-true way of making things famous still holds a trick or two up its sleeve.


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2009 Vintage could be great

The winter was very cold. Rainfall was low until Spring, when the skies opened up, making for near-normal precipitation. A hard frost hit statewide in mid-April, followed by a heat wave. May and June were rainy and cold, with June setting low temperature records. July was fairly average, and August has been mild. There were some excessive heat spikes in the usual hot places, like Paso Robles, but nothing that could spoil the vintage

Harvest began August 12, mainly for sparkling wine grapes and Sauvignon Blanc. Some vintners expressed concern about green flavors, due to the coolness. Monsoonal moistness in late August also raises the threat of mold, although this doesn’t appear to be a big problem. The big reds have yet to be picked, but 2009 could be a very good year for Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, provided that ripening proceeds steadily, with no major heat waves, and the rains hold off. With a weak El Nino effect in the Pacific, California, especially Southern California, could be in for higher-than-usual rains this Fall, but it’s too soon to tell. But overall, the pieces are in place for a good vintage: coolish weather, dry conditions during harvest (so far) and an absence of heat waves should enable ripeness without high alcohol.

  1. Morton Leslie says:

    I agree completely about the potential. This will be my 40th year here and I do not remember a year with such even moderate and cool growing conditions accompanied by abundant sunshine. The only one close would be 1970. Shatter and mildew have been the big issues so far. The vines look good. About green flavors, I know I am a dinosaur, but a little acid and varietal flavor never hurt anyone, unless you don’t know how to modify your practices to ripen, pick, crush, ferment such grapes and age such wines. People used to know how to do it and there are a lot of 1970’s still showing nicely as a result. (Hint – the solution is not to let the grapes turn to raisins, add water or use reverse osmosis.)

  2. I agree that the demise of “traditional media” has been overblown. It will transform, no doubt. But TV, movies and newspapers still have massive impact and will continue to be a major driver, despite us bloggers sometimes suggesting otherwise.

    On vintages, ’07 Pinots RRV: great.

    BTW- talk about a chick flick. Julie & Julia… I’ll need plenty of Cab on hand to make it through with Loni.

    PS- why doesn’t your blog get more comments, Steve. I never understood that.

  3. Um, hate to state the obvious here, but the movie was based, at least partly, on a book that was based on a blog about somebody cooking their way through the book. In fact, the movie title came from the blog of the same name.

    To answer your question — Could social media have resurrected “Mastering”?

    A blog that turned into a book that turned into a movie resurrected “Mastering.”


  4. Jeff, good point. I do stand corrected. Julie’s blog started it. But a Hollywood movie and newspaper reviews sealed the deal! So it took everyone — the bloggers, the filmmakers, the print reporters and the original book — to make it happen. Teamwork.

  5. Clinton: Sometimes this blog gets scores of comments, sometimes 5 or 6. Traffic is very high — I think among the highest of all American wine blogs. I figure people like to read it and they’ll only comment if they feel they have something to say.

  6. I never liked much how print and social media were pitted against each other. It’s as ridiculous as pitting print against television. Social media is, at its core, another form of media. It’s another means to connect and engage with people, but by no means is it a harbinger of destruction for traditional means. In fact, I would say it’s there to enhance them–the success of the book sales is an example of that.

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